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Saturday, June 09, 2012


Excellent Ingredient of the Week
Cardamom has a strong, unique taste, with an intense fragrance. Black cardamom has a distinctly more smokey, though not bitter, aroma with a coolness some consider similar to mint. Green cardamom is one of the most expensive spices by weight, but little is needed to impart the flavor. Cardamom is best stored in pod form because once the seeds are exposed or ground they quickly lose their flavor. However, high-quality ground cardamom is often more readily (and cheaply) available and is an acceptable substitute. For recipes requiring whole cardamom pods, a generally accepted equivalent is 10 pods equals 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cardamom.

It is a common ingredient in Indian cooking and is often used in baking in Nordic countries, such as in sweet breads. In the Middle East, green cardamom powder is used as a spice for sweet dishes as well as traditional flavoring in coffee and tea. Cardamom pods are ground together with coffee beans to produce a powdered mixture of the two, which is boiled with water to make coffee. Cardamom is used in some extent in savory dishes. It is occasionally used as a garnish in basmati rice and other dishes. It is often referred to as fat cardamom due to its size. Individual seeds are sometimes chewed and used in much the same way as chewing gum; it is even used by Wrigley's ('Eclipse Breeze Exotic Mint') where it states "with cardamom to neutralize the toughest breath odors." It has been known to be used for gin making.

Green cardamom is broadly used in South Asia to treat infections in teeth and gums, to prevent and treat throat troubles, congestion of the lungs and pulmonary tuberculosis, inflammation of eyelids and also digestive disorders. It also is used to break up kidney stones and gall stones, and was reportedly used as an antidote for both snake and scorpion venom. All that medical stuff is from the internet and so I hold no claim to its validity.

Anyway, let's talk about ways to use it in food. It's great in baking, John Margraff adds it to his apple pie filling. It's great in any kind of spice cake or butter or sugar cookie. It's great in couscous to go with a Moroccan tagine, great with lamb, great in tea. Here are two lovely recipes using cardamom.

Cardamom Rose Meringues

2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons rose extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 drop red food coloring (optional)
(Yields 12 meringue cookies)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar together with an electric mixer on high speed until the mixture forms stiff peaks.

Place sugar, water, rose extract, cardamom, salt, and food coloring in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer the mixture for a minute or two, stirring constantly, and very slowly pour the syrup in a thin stream into the egg whites, beating constantly with electric mixer on high speed. Beat until the syrup is incorporated and the meringue is stiff and shiny.
Drop by spoonfuls or pipe into rosettes with a star tip onto the prepared baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven until the meringues are hard, 1 to 1 1/2 hours; turn off the oven, and allow them to cool inside the oven to finish baking the insides.

Spiced Honey Drink

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 cloves cloves
4 cardamom pods
3 slices fresh ginger (to taste)
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves

Combine all ingredients with 1 quart water in a saucepan with a lid over medium heat; bring almost to a boil. Cover and turn off heat; steep for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain, then reheat and serve, or refrigerate, covered, and serve cold.